Way clear for auto­no­mous dri­ving – Update

Clas­si­fi­ca­ti­on in the pre­vious legal framework

The legal frame­work for self-driving vehi­cles has under­go­ne a num­ber of “upgrades” in recent years. In par­ti­cu­lar, the Act Amen­ding the Road Traf­fic Act and the Com­pul­so­ry Insuran­ce Act (Auto­no­mous Dri­ving Act) (PDF only in Ger­man) of 12 July 2021, crea­ted fun­da­men­tal pre­re­qui­si­tes to enab­le auto­no­mous dri­ving on public roads in Ger­ma­ny.  

Aspects that have not been regu­la­ted so far, e.g. tech­ni­cal requi­re­ments, appro­val of the self-driving vehi­cles and due dili­gence requi­re­ments for the per­sons invol­ved in the ope­ra­ti­on, will now be defi­ned by a new regu­la­ti­on. The aim of the Ordi­nan­ce on the Regu­la­ti­on of the Ope­ra­ti­on of Motor Vehi­cles with Auto­ma­ted and Auto­no­mous Dri­ving Func­tions and on the Amend­ment of Road Traf­fic Regu­la­ti­ons (“AFGBV”; the Ordi­nan­ce), which was adop­ted on 23 Febru­a­ry 2022, is to enab­le the regu­lar ope­ra­ti­on of motor vehi­cles with high­ly and ful­ly auto­ma­ted dri­ving func­tions on public roads. 

The Ordi­nan­ce thus sup­ple­ments the exis­ting pro­vi­si­ons and brid­ges the peri­od until the expec­ted har­mo­ni­sa­ti­on in EU law. 

More com­pre­hen­si­ve manu­fac­tu­rer obli­ga­ti­ons and their impact on the sup­ply chain

In addi­ti­on to the issu­an­ce of ope­ra­ting licen­ses as well as per­mits and appro­vals, more exten­si­ve manu­fac­tu­rer obli­ga­ti­ons have also been established.

The Ordi­nan­ce assigns veri­fi­ca­ti­on, mar­ket sur­veil­lan­ce tasks and powers to the Ger­man Federal Motor Vehi­cle Aut­ho­ri­ty to moni­tor the con­for­mi­ty of vehi­cles. Sin­ce the Aut­ho­ri­ty can only per­form the­se tasks and exer­cise the­se powers on the basis of suf­fi­ci­ent infor­ma­ti­on if it has the rele­vant docu­ments avail­ab­le for inspec­tion, manu­fac­tu­rers must pro­vi­de rele­vant docu­ments and infor­ma­ti­on free of char­ge (e.g. grant access to soft­ware used) in accordance with § 5(5) of the Ordi­nan­ce. Wit­hin this frame­work, manu­fac­tu­rers can obli­ge their sup­pliers to keep more exten­si­ve docu­men­ta­ti­on and/or for a lon­ger peri­od of time or char­ge them for the cos­ts of obtai­ning such documentation.

Manu­fac­tu­rers will also be affec­ted by the “tech­ni­cal super­vi­si­on” requi­re­ments set out in § 14 of the Ordi­nan­ce. The owner is respon­si­ble per se for ensu­ring that a sui­ta­ble natu­ral per­son is avail­ab­le for tech­ni­cal super­vi­si­on (§ 13(6), Sen­tence 1 of the Ordi­nan­ce). Howe­ver, the manu­fac­tu­rer must pro­vi­de appro­pria­te trai­ning. Depen­ding on which com­pon­ents and parts of a vehi­cle are affec­ted, it can be assu­med that the manu­fac­tu­rer will also pass on the­se obli­ga­ti­ons, or at least the asso­cia­ted cos­ts, “down the sup­ply chain.”

Out­look and significance

It is expec­ted that manu­fac­tu­rers of auto­no­mous vehi­cles will respond to the new requi­re­ments. The pas­sing on of the obli­ga­ti­ons incum­bent on them and/or, alter­na­tively, the pas­sing on of the cost bur­den to the sup­ply chain can thus be expec­ted – both by con­trac­tu­al means. So once again, it’s the same sto­ry all the way through the sup­ply chain: Watch out when draf­ting con­tracts.

The next legis­la­ti­ve step is the vote of the Federal Coun­cil on the Ordi­nan­ce. If the Coun­cil agrees, the auto indus­try may soon be able to put auto­no­mous dri­ving vehi­cles on the road and in people’s garages.

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